Jennifer Lopez

From Rags to Riches: 29+ Hollywood Stars That Used to Be Poor


| LAST UPDATE 07/26/2023

By Carmi Carson

Despite the glitz and glam that we see today, some of Hollywood's biggest names came from seriously humble beginnings. From couch surfers to red carpet royalty, let's take a look at which celebrities used to be poor.

Jada Pinkett Smith

Long before her success in film, Jada Pinkett Smith only knew struggle. She was born into a low-income home in a Baltimore neighborhood. In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, Pinkett Smith described the environment as "a neighborhood full of desperate, uneducated people who were brought down by their lack of opportunity."

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At one point, Jada even turned to crime to make ends meet. "I look back and go: 'How did I make it out of there?'" Luckily, she did. And thanks to a long marriage to her husband and fellow actor Will Smith, the pair have a combined net worth of $50 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

Sylvester Stallone

In anticipation for the release of Creed, Stallone sat down to talk about his earlier struggles. At one point, times got so tough that Sylvester was living in a bus station. "I had this one coat that was literally my house," Stallone recalled. But a few extra gigs changed everything for the aspiring actor.

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After proving his physical and mental dedication to acting, Stallone was rewarded with big roles in projects like Rocky and The Lords of Flatbush. And since then, the famous actor hasn't known struggle. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Stallone's living the good life with $400 million to his name.

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Tiffany Haddish

Tiffany Haddish has never been shy about her troubled upbringing in the foster care system. In fact, she's very proud of how far she's come. When looking at an old picture of one of her earlier standup gigs, the famous comedian reflected. "[I] was homeless, hungry, scared, and hurt," Tiffany shared on Instagram.

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"I am so happy we have come this far and excited about where we will Go," Haddish continued. And just how far has she come, exactly? Well, according to Celebrity Net Worth, the Like a Boss star has worked her way to a $6 million net worth. From foster couch surfing to millionaire status, "she ready!"

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Leighton Meester

Leighton Meester struggled to relate to the privileged life that her character on Gossip Girl lived. Blair Waldorf couldn't have been further from Meester's reality. That is, except for parental drama. "My family has a crazy history," the star admitted to Marie Claire back in 2012.

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Both her parents spent time in prison, and tough financial times led Leighton to a life of modelling at the young age of 10. And from then, her stellar work ethic landed her huge roles in both film and television. Today, Celebrity Net Worth estimates that the accomplished actress has $16 million to her name.

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Jennifer Lopez

With the iconic song Jenny From the Block, it's no surprise that J-Lo made her way onto our list. But don't think the money changed her. Jennifer hasn't forgotten her Bronx roots one bit. Just like her lyrics expressed, "I know where I'm goin' and I know where I'm from."

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And while we don't know exactly where Lopez is going, we can tell you that today, the Grammy-winning artist holds about $400 million in the bank, according to Celebrity Net Worth. Not bad for someone who once had to sofa surf before achieving her career dreams!

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Demi Moore

At the age of 58, Demi Moore has seen a lot over her years in Hollywood. She got her big break in Choices, and since then has gained major notoriety amongst industry peers, and even Golden Globe nominations. But did Demi's career successes echo her upbringing? Or was it a total 180?

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"I entered this career [with] no background," Moore shared with The Guardian. But with "nothing to lose and everything to gain," she tried her luck. And it sure paid off. Today, the Songbird star is worth $200 million, as stated by Celebrity Net Worth.

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Sarah Jessica Parker

Sarah Jessica Parker's famous role as Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City couldn't have been further from the actress's upbringing. In an interview with People, she recalled times where her family went without electricity. But, it was important to Sarah that people knew that she wouldn't trade her upbringing for anything.

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"There was love," the Emmy-winning actress added. In her eyes, that was the number one importance that she wanted to instill into her own children. But beyond a happy home, Sarah's also providing her kids with a cushy upbringing thanks to her $150 million net worth, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

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Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson is all about the gratitude. Whether it be for her family, career, or fortune, the singer and talk show host has also made a point to say thanks for what she's got. And in an ET Canada interview, Clarkson said it all stemmed from her difficult childhood.

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"We didn't have a lot of money," Clarkson recalled of her humble holidays growing up. "But I actually really appreciate that... Because I think I really get what the actualy meaning of Christmas." And these days, Kelly also gets to appreciate her $45 million net worth, as estimated by Celebrity Net Worth.

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Jim Carrey

Starting us off is the comedy legend himself, Jim Carrey. But life wasn't always so glamorous for the Hollywood funny guy. In fact, at one point in Jim's life, he and his family were living in a van and working as janitors.

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"We had some tough times," the Dumb and Dumber star shared back in a 2003 interview with Howard Stern. "But the list of what [my parents] did for me was so enormous," he continued. And in the end, all of the hard times paid off, and today, the world-renowned actor has a net worth of $180 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

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Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman, who was born back in 1937 in Memphis, Tennessee, has seen a whole lot of ups and downs over the years. His childhood was filled with hardship, as his parents struggled to find work in the Southern United States. And even though money was tight, Morgan can remember scraping change together to go to the movies.

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After graduating from high school, Freeman joined the Air Force, but quickly realized it wasn't for him. He bravely moved to New York and booked his first gig in Hello, Dolly! and the rest is history. Fast forward a few decades and now the actor is worth a whopping $250 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

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Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo did such a convincing job in The Wolf on Wall Street, it's hard to imagine that he's ever known anything other than fast cars and mansions. But the Oscar-winning actor's childhood was far from glamorous. "I grew up very poor," DiCaprio shared with the Los Angeles Times.

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But from an upbringing in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Hollywood to A-lister status, Leo has seen both sides of the spectrum. Now, the 46-year-old actor sits comfortably with an estimated net worth of $260 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

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Hilary Swank

Hilary Swank made her Hollywood debut in the 1992 production of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and since then has taken the industry by storm. This includes Academy Award and Golden Globe wins to name a few. And as one could imagine, her stellar reputation has landed her some hefty paychecks.

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Currently, her value sits at $60 million, as estimated by Celebrity Net Worth. But Swank is yet another rag to riches story from LA. She told CBS News that her family once resorted to squatting at a friend's empty house. "We weren't dirt poor, but we didn't have a lot of money," the Fatale star remembered in a later interview.

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Nicki Minaj

While there are many Hollywood actors with stories of humble beginnings, some of our favorite music artists have that in common too. And that includes the one and only Nicki Minaj. But in Minaj's eyes, her impoverished upbringing fueled her passion for success.

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And at the time, Nicki didn't even realize she was broke. "Growing up in Trinidad, I didn't know that we were poor," the rapper shared with The Independent. But now, with Celebrity Net Worth pegging her at $85 million, Minaj has gotten a taste of the good life. And has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.

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Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise became the name to know around Hollywood in the 1980s. From Risky Business and Top Gun, Cruise carved himself a spot as one of the industry's biggest talents. And while these days the Oscar-winning celebrity has a $600 million net worth, according to Celebrity Net Worth, the actor came from humble beginnings.

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Cruise's childhood was spent bumping around from town to town, and he started working at an incredibly young age to provide for his family. "I've had paying jobs since I was about eight years old," the Mission Impossible franchise star shared with Playboy back in 2012. But that work ethic sure paid off when he got his big break.

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Most loyal Carter fans have a clear picture of how difficult Jay-Z's childhood was back in the day. But if you're needing a refresher, Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem) will tell you all you need to know about his tough upbringing in Brooklyn. But he went from a life of struggle "to drivin' some of the hottest cars."

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Over Jay-Z's multi-decade career, he's amassed a jaw-dropping amount of cash. Along with his wife, Beyoncé, the pair is sitting at a net worth of approximately $1.8 billion combined, according to Celebrity Net Worth. But that's not so surprising when you take into account his 1 billion annual streams, as stated by Forbes.

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Mariah Carey

From her extravagant outfits to her over-the-top performances, Mariah Carey has developed a reputation as one of Hollywood's biggest divas. And while most would fight the label, Mariah embraced it. "I deserve to be at this point," the Grammy-winning singer shared. "I hope you frame it within the context of coming from nothing."

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"I was always high-maintenance, it's just I didn't have anyone to do the maintenance when I was growing up!" Well gone are those days, today, the famous singer is living the pampered life of her dreams with a $320 million net worth, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

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Mark Wahlberg

It hasn't always been a life of glitz and glam for this celebrated actor. In fact, Mark Wahlberg was once on a spiraling downhill path that led him to a stint in one of Massachusetts's toughest prisons. But it was there that the Boston-native decided to turn his life around.

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He cleaned up his act and first found success in the music industry before taking Hollywood by storm. Now, he's an Oscar-winning actor, director, and producer with $350 million to his name, according to Celebrity Net Worth. And if these celebs who went from rags to riches surprised you, you haven't seen nothing yet. Keep scrolling…

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J.K. Rowling

For many fans of her series of books and movies, it's hard to imagine a world without J.K. Rowling's work. And equally, it's hard to imagine a time where Rowling wasn't one of history's most famous authors. But, back before she found immense success, the aspiring author thought she was "the biggest failure [she] knew."

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"I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be... Without being homeless," the successful writer shared during her 2008 speech at Harvard. But, her pipedream turned to reality and the struggling mother made it big. Now, the history-making author sits on a $1 billion net worth, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

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Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber skyrocketed to fame so quickly, it's hard to imagine a time when he wasn't dripping in swag (and covered in models). But believe it or not, Justin's upbringing was far from glamorous. According to CTV News, at one point, he and his mom were living in a mouse-infested rental house.

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But ever since he found success on Youtube, Bieber hasn't stopped. Nowadays, this Grammy-winning artist is living the good life with a reported $285 million net worth, according to Celebrity Net Worth. But Biebs hasn't forgotten where he came from, and makes an effort to give charity.

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Dr. Phil

Before he was known as Dr. Phil, Phil McGraw struggled to make ends meet. "When you grow up poor, it's a very results-oriented world," the TV personality shared with CBS. "You don't work, you don't eat." And despite trying to get by, he found himself homeless at the age of 15 in Kansas City.

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But, it was that very experience that shaped him into the man he is today. His work ethic fueled a successful career in television and psychology. Today, the famous talk show host has amassed a staggering net worth of approximately $460 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

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Daniel Craig

Before snagging the role of a lifetime as James Bond in the 007 franchise, Daniel Craig put in his fair share of groundwork and struggle in the film industry. He started with smaller roles dating back to 1992 but faced some tough blows along the way.

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Lucky for Daniel, and for fans of his work, his career began to pick up speed. Subsequently, the checks started coming in, and they didn't stop. Now, the celebrated actor and star of Knives Out has climbed the Hollywood ranks to a net worth of $160 million, as stated by Celebrity Net Worth.

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Kurt Cobain

At the time of his tragic death, the legendary Kurt Cobain had reached a net worth of approximately $50 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. But the same issues that haunted him in his adult life were apparent in his troubled adolescence. And, it even led to a brief period of homelessness during his teenage years.

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According to Britannica, Cobain turned to his rebellious lifestyle to deal with the hurt and pain surrounding his parents' divorce. Recreational substances and vandalism became his norm as he bounced between family members. But this pain would end up fueling some of the greatest rock music in American history.

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50 Cent

Taking us back to the music industry is 50 Cent, also known as Curtis James Jackson III. He grew up in one of the roughest areas in New York and turned to a life of crime and hustle at the young age of 12. "It was…when my grandparents thought I was in the after-school program," he admitted in an Oprah interview.

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But he had musical potential just waiting to be tapped. And he eventually landed his shot thanks to Eminem and Dr. Dre. And after the successful release of Get Rich or Die Tryin', 50 carved a name for himself as one of the greats. Today, the rapper and producer sits on a $40 million net worth, according to Celebrity Net Worth,

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Lil Nas X

Lil Nas X, born Montero Lamar Hill, lands a spot as one of the youngest stars on our list. The Georgia native described his upbringing as poor and lonely. He turned to memes and social media as a way to escape his predicaments and dropped out of college at the age of 19 to try his luck in the music industry.

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Although his earlier releases on SoundCloud caused little buzz, Lil Nas remained determined. And thank goodness he did. Today, the Billboard-topping artist has racked in Grammy wins and tons of cash for his viral tracks. In just a few short years, the Montero singer has amassed $7 million, as estimated by Celebrity Net Worth.

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Shania Twain

Shania was born into a troubled home in rural Canada in 1965. Her parents split at a young age, and Shania and her siblings experienced extreme poverty as her mother and step-father struggled to keep work. But, as she shared in her ABC News interview, her first hit single, Any Man of Mine, changed her life for the better.

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Then came further successes, like Man! I Feel Like a Woman! and That Don't Impress Me Much. Before long, Shania left her impoverished past behind her and rose to be one of the greatest country stars of recent years. Today, the Grammy-winning singer sits at a $400 million net worth, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

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Ed Sheeran

During Ed Sheeran's rise to fame, he experienced some tough times. "There were moments I wanted to give up," he shared with Capital FM. "The nights that you don't have a couch to sleep on or you don't have money in your pocket, or food in your stomach or a charged phone, those become the nights were when you reassess your situation."

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But all the sacrifices were worth it in the end, as he has climbed the ranks of the music industry and snagged some Grammy wins along the way. Today, the 30-year-old artist has earned a jaw-dropping $200 million net worth throughout his 17-year career. Keep scrolling for more celebs that overcame hardships on their way to success.

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Oprah Winfrey

Move over Jay-Z and J.K. Rowling, it's time to make room for the next billionaire on our list. And just like the other heavy-hitters, Oprah is another example of a legendary rag to riches story. Her childhood was spent in extreme poverty, as she shuffled between family members while her single mom struggled to find work.

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But after moving to live with her father, she found stability and a love for media. And that passion would fuel her to a league of her own. From Oscar wins to a 25-season talk show, Oprah did it all. And she amassed a $3.5 billion net worth along the way, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

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Dolly Parton

Many believe that there's no country music without Dolly Parton. She became a beloved American figure to millions of fans, and made countless tracks that are still referenced today. And according to Parton, she owes her unique sound and lyrics to her rural upbringing in Tennessee.

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"I think my childhood made me everything I am today," the star told Entertainment Tonight back in 2015. Because it was that very upbringing that gave Dolly her special edge that the world fell in love with. And today, the celebrated artist and actress sits on a $650 million net worth, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

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Celine Dion

Years prior to Celine's rise to fame as the queen of love ballads, the Canadian singer experienced the hardships of a struggling and busy household. When speaking to CBS News, the Grammy-winning artist recalled her tough childhood. "I did not have a bedroom," she shared, rather she shared a bed with four siblings.

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But with pipes like hers, it was no surprise that Celine was able to belt her way out of poverty. And she owes her success to the loving household she grew up in. "We were given love... What else did we need?" she told Vanity Fair. Today, the 53-year-old singer has got $800 million in the bank, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

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Chris Pratt

After landing a reported $10 million check for his latest Jurassic World film, Chris must be seriously patting himself on the back for how far he's come over the years. That's right, long before Chris was battling it out in fictional universes, he was a homeless college dropout working at a Bubba Gump's joint in Hawaii.

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But his dreams of making it to the big screens came true, and the cash came flooding in. And since 2015, this celeb has made the Forbes Highest-Paid Actors list every year. From waiting tables to $60 million (according to Celebrity Net Worth): Talk about a come-up!

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